Ginawaydaganuc and the Circle of All Nations. The Remarkable Environmental Legacy of Elder William Commanda

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Thumbadoo, Romola Vasantha




Abstract This thesis is a case study analysis of the environmental work of the late 97 year old North American Indigenous elder William Commanda (11 November 1913 - 3 August 2011), a widely acknowledged public figure, guardian of three Algonquin wampum belts (sacred mnemonic record-keeping and governance devices including the Seven Fires Prophecy Belt, the Welcoming Belt, and Border Crossing Belt), Officer of the Order of Canada, and recipient of two honorary doctorate degrees.

William Commanda's work was grounded in the fully inclusive concept of Ginawaydagunuc that All is Related in the cosmic world. When the idea of We Are All Connected as people is extrapolated from this Ginawaydaganuc representation or metaphor, the word Anicinabe (Anishinabe in contemporary usage) assumes primacy as the good or real human being, and as such then includes Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Those who align with his energetic web contribute to animate William Commanda's informal global eco-peace Circle of All Nations community.

I argue that the Circle of All Nations was conceptualized by William Commanda as a bridge-building mechanism and interface to speak to the incommensurability between Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge systems on environment, relationships and critical social justice and peace issues. The thesis incorporates and examines the pedagogical framework of this discourse.

The focus of the study is both abstract (whether and how his discourse impacts approaches to environment and related socio-ecological issues); and action oriented (regarding the continued relevance, animation and emergence of the discourse); and it employs a medicine wheel conceptual framework, and four logics of inquiry: performance mapping, historical dialectical, phenomenological and cybercartographic.

It explores how narrative, geo-narrative, critical reflexivity and graphic, cybercartographic geo-narrative, digital atlas and social media methodological tools can be justified and employed to support knowledge generation on environment, relationships and related matters in contemporary times. It also explores how such research and scholarship might impact social change and environmental studies.  


Native American Studies
Physical Geography
Education - Social Sciences




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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